HMS Terror discovery may rewrite history of Franklin Expedition

Posted Sep 13, 2016 by Karen Graham
British polar explorer Sir John Franklin's long-lost ship, the HMS Terror has been found, and it's in pristine condition, sitting upright at the bottom of an Arctic bay, say researchers with the ArcticResearch Foundation.
A painting by William Smyth depicts the HMS Terror in a perilous situation during an 1837 voyage in ...
A painting by William Smyth depicts the HMS Terror in a perilous situation during an 1837 voyage in Arctic waters.
© William Smyth, National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London
The near intact shipwreck was first discovered on September 3, 2014, near Nunavut's King William Island by Parks Canada with the help of a remotely-operated underwater vehicle, according to Digital Journal.
The Arctic Research Foundation, funded by Jim Balsillie, a Canadian tech tycoon, and philanthropist, who co-founded Research in Motion, announced the discovery of the wreck laying at the bottom of the Victoria Strait in the Western Arctic close to King William Island on Monday.
Archaeologists with Parks Canada who have led the mission since it started in 2008, have yet to confirm the ship is the HMS Terror. They must either examine the foundation's images or visit the site in person, first. And a visit to the site may be a bit tricky because the first winter snows are already falling in the high Arctic, and Terror Bay will soon be covered in thick ice.
The foundation revealed extensive detail on the find with the help of underwater vireos and still images of the wreck. The researchers were able to match key details of the 19th-century ship's building plans with key elements on the wreck.
Part of the smokestack that went below decks to the locomotive engine.
Part of the smokestack that went below decks to the locomotive engine.
Arctic Research Foundation
The ship is in surprisingly excellent condition and while it was first thought to be listing at a 45-degree angle to starboard, a third dive with the remotely-controlled vehicle (ROV) showed the vessel to be sitting level on the seabed, "which means the boat sank gently to the bottom,” said Adrian Schimnowski, the foundation’s operations director, according to the Guardian.
One of the most crucial pieces of the puzzle the researchers found is the smokestack that extended up from the locomotive engine below decks that was used to add additional power to the ship's propellers in pushing through the ice. This find proved to be a crucial detail in the identification of the HMS Terror.
The ship's bell was also found, lying on its side close to where the sailor on watch would have swung the clapper to mark time. The ship's magnificent 20-foot long bowsprit still points straight out from the bow, just as it did while the ship was navigating the treacherous ice that eventually trapped the Erebus and Terror on September 12, 1846.
The double-wheeled helm of HMS Terror.
The double-wheeled helm of HMS Terror.
Arctic Research Foundation
Oksana Schimnowski, Adrian's wife, told the Ottawa Citizen that Arctic conditions and the need to be certain of the find made the researchers work slowly and carefully.
“Erebus and Terror were what they called bomb vessels,” she said. This means the ships carried heavy mortars and had reinforced hulls needed for going through Arctic ice. “They were the only two bomb vessels known to have sailed in the Arctic, and that made identification easier,” she said.
The ill-fated and final Franklin Expedition
The ill-fated 1845 expedition was Franklin's fourth attempt at finding a Northwest Passage for England, having served on three previous expeditions. This final trip would be to navigate the last unexplored section of the Northwest Passage. By 1948, after becoming stuck in the ice in the Victoria Strait, Franklin and his men, all 129 of them, decided to go south overland to safety.
As history tells us, the survivors, all 129, including Franklin perished. Erebus was found much further south of where one last note from the ship's officers was found. For years, researchers have looked more to the north of King William Island, but Erebus was found right where Inuits questioned about the expedition in 1852 said they had last seen the ship.
Now HMS Terror has also been found far south of where the original search area was, though not as far south as the Erebus. The ship lies on the bottom of Terror Bay, a name that predates the ship's name. And it is now that historians may find they have to rewrite at least a page or two of history.
“This discovery changes history,” Schimnowski told the Guardian. “Given the location of the find [in Terror Bay] and the state of the wreck, it’s almost certain that HMS Terror was operationally closed down by the remaining crew who then re-boarded HMS Erebus and sailed south where they met their ultimate tragic fate.”